Risk managers tell StrategicRISK that the announcement illustrates the important role hotels play in a disaster

Major floods during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand

Risk managers in Asia-Pacific hotels are set to receive guidance from the United Nations around disaster planning and recovery.

The UN will develop and pilot disaster risk management standards for the hotel industry in the region, which is home to 80% of the world’s disaster events.

UN office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) head Margareta Wahlström said: “The hotel industry in hazard-prone areas of the world is very vulnerable to major setbacks from floods, storms and earthquakes. Such events can result in closure of resorts and have a significant impact on tourism and employment. The hotel industry has a very important role to play in encouraging disaster risk management at the local level.”

John Ludlow, former head risk management at InterContinental Hotels Group, told StrategicRISK that recognition should be given for the vital role that the hotel industry often plays when disaster strikes.

“Hotels are often a shelter in a storm for the guests, community and accommodate the first responders. This open door and caring culture comes naturally to the hospitality industry,” said Ludlow, who now runs his own risk consultancy, Leading In Risk.

“The major hotel chains have many years of collective experience and have built significant capability in (crisis management), often working together in times of disaster to support each other and the communities where their hotels reside.

“Any initiative to improve the capability to respond to crises in the resort sector in Asia should review and learn from the best, communicate what is an achievable standard for everyone to strive for and then recognise, celebrate and reward by all means possible those who step up to the role that hoteliers can play for society at times of disaster.”

Building a resilient hotel

The UN announcement comes off the back of a joint study carried out by UNISDR, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM), which found significant interest in setting disaster recovery standards among hoteliers, tour operators, tourism bodies, government agencies and insurance companies in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and the Maldives.

The study was carried out for the Hotel Resilient Initiative which aims to develop internationally recognised standards for hotels and resorts that will assist them in reducing risk to natural and technological hazards, while demonstrating preparedness and safety to potential clients, insurers and financers.

The UN’s Wahlström said: “The report is telling us that there is concern about the lack of universal standards for disaster risk management across the hotel industry. One incentive is that insurance companies could envisage premium reductions for hotels that demonstrate that they are investing in disaster resilience in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which has been adopted with enthusiasm by governments across the region. The standards will be developed together with the partners of the Hotel Resilient Initiative in the Philippines at the end of this year.”

Shangri-La International Hotel Management vice president – finance and purchasing Parikshit Sen Gupta said hotels in Asia-Pacific should compare the Sendai standard with their current internal disaster recovery standard.

Sen Gupta told StrategicRISK that the UN announcement illustrated that “risk management for disasters is a top priority internationally, especially for hotels”.

“One of the reasons is because, more and more, hotels are built in remote locations where [they] have big exposures to natural catastrophes, so it is important for hotels to recognise their unique business model and design risk management accordingly.”